Last week, the former frontman of America’s biggest cult band released his fifth solo album, Shine. This album gives Anastasio a creditable niche in the pop genre – a result that many critics discourage; the new material isn’t Phish-like enough. Well, sorry to disappoint, but this is not Phish. While his self-titled album had a pop edge to it, Shine shamelessly delights listeners with simply sophisticated pop delivered with gusto by Anastasio’s new band, 70 Volt Parade.
Shine is filled with lyrically driven, generally upbeat, and incredibly catchy pop/rock songs that retain both Anastasio’s musicianship and integrity, and that reflect knowledge of arrangement that most study at conservatories to master. Anastasio is thinking like a composer but playing (and singing) like the next big thing – and with this jump into the mainstream, he very well may be.
“Shine” is a highly appropriate single, with the chorus: “And the light shines on, but we all ride on. / When the day’s come and gone, you know we all ride on,” words that succinctly sum up the album. “Come as Melody” is probably the most involved compositionally, starting as a shaky pseudo-ballad that moves towards hard rock in the chorus, complete with a few low-ended blues riffs – solid rock developed from a quiet stab at gentle songwriting with stunning results. Many of the songs (the lyrics of which were penned by Anastasio) illustrate the joyous difficulties of love and of the unknown; from his melancholy crooning: “This pain I would not have known had you not arrived / Still burns down inside of me but it makes me feel alive” on “Love Is Freedom” to the determined and hopeful “Understand the movements in the corners of your mind / To see the balance of behind and walk the center line alone” on “Love That Breaks All Lines.”
Considering an album in contrast to those that came before it will limit the expression of the current one. Shine is marketable pop with a soul, and Anastasio is one of the few artists around who can try on one musical style after another with ease. Looking back at Anastasio’s varied solo career, Shine is a landmark of artistic growth and individuality.
[Anna Trumbo works well under pressure.]